An eclectic and sophisticated journal that aims to sustain the past (a posthumous short story from Walker Percy), enliven the current moment (new poetry, fiction, and essays from a dozen writers), represent a range of nonfiction options (from a historical look at the use of puppets to literary criticism), serve as a mini gallery of visual artistic expression (fascinating drawings by Graham Nickson), and serves as an arbiter of current reading (reviews of fiction, poetry nonfiction, and other media by five experienced reviewers).
The range of styles, tones, and intentions here is impressive, from Tracy Daughtery’s short fiction, “Very Large Array,” with its casual, conversational approach, to an essay by J. Hillis Miller, “’Mr. Sludge, C’est Moi,’ the Conflict of Media,’” which “tests out Derrida’s proposition about the socio-politico-personal-performative effects of a change in media by looking at an example of the collision of two media in Robert Browning’s poem, ‘Mr. Sludge,’ ‘The Medium.’” I particularly appreciated the “performative effects” of a story by Claire Vaye Wakins, “Ghosts, Cowboys,” which begins: “The day my mom checked out, Razor Blade Baby moved in. And at the end I can’t help thinking about beginnings.”
Nickon's drawings are utterly amazing. Intricate, detailed black and white renditions of human figures against the beach/oceans, highlighting the body’s musculature and juxtaposing the angles of lifeguard chairs, umbrellas, towels, and wooden bridges with the body’s limbs and gestures. These images may sound trivial. But, they are not. The contributors’ notes indicate that Nickson’s work presents a “sense of the uncanny.” And I can think of no better way to describe them.
I think “uncanny,” is, in fact, a fair assessment of the magazine. Unexpected. Uncommon. Uncanny. From fiction to poetry, this is serious work intended for serious readers, but it manages to not be dour or dowdy, and to succeed at being fresh (new, engaging) without being fresh (overtly edgy, sly, coy, or showy).